products liaiblity

The Dreaded Arbitration Clause- A Brief Explanation

Many of my consumer cases hinge on the dreaded arbitration clause.  Businesses often bury arbitration clauses in fine print, in difficult to understand language, and the business rarely advises a person they can opt out of the arbitration clause.   With that said,  you are probably wondering, what is the big deal with arbitration clauses?   

The big deal:  Arbitration Clauses strip you of your right to a jury of your peers.  Here in Oregon the vast majority of arbitrators are white males who have been practicing law for decades and decades.  Many of the arbitrators do their best to see things from both sides, but they typically are pretty hard on consumers that have signed things like "As-Is" disclosures or other agreements.  They do this because they are seeing things through the eyes of a lawyer and not a typical consumer who might be on the Jury.   Consumers see things from a real world perspective and understand why a consumer may act in a particular manner.  

Another big issue is cost, many times the consumer has to pay the arbitrator thousands of dollars to hear the case.   It doesn't make sense for a consumer to pay the arbitrator $3,000.00 to preside over a dispute over $5,000.00.  Additionally, Arbitration Clauses are often coupled with Attorney Fee clauses that could make the consumer liable for the businesses attorney fees if they lose.  This can be tens of thousands of dollars. 

Consumers are also crippled by arbitration rules of procedure.  Many arbitration services tout themselves as efficient.  What this means is the rules make it difficult for the parties to gather information from each other and third parties.  This typically always hurts the consumer, because the business has all of the records regarding the product and the sale.   In a products liability case or Nursing Home case that requires arbitration the injured person will have little documentary evidence, but the Nursing Home or product manufacturer will likely have documents that support the injured persons case.   

What to do:  First try and locate the arbitration clause.  This could turn into a full time job for some folks, because many expensive products and credit cards usually are accompanied by a arbitration clause. Sometimes they are buried in the Warranty paperwork or Instructions.  If possible opt out of the arbitration clause.  Also, you can draw a line through an arbitration clause.  Most businesses don't know what to do if that is the case.  If it is an on-line agreement your options are limited, but they may be there. 

If you want more information and a recent example, check out CBS's story on Arbitration Clauses and how Samsung is using it to deprive an injured person of compensation for injuries Samsung caused. 

If you have any questions about an arbitration clause call me at 503.224.1658 to discuss your options.  Please remember Ross Law's post is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only.   Also, remember the law is always changing so who knows if Arbitration clauses may be in vogue in the future. 

Who Is Liable if there is a Foreign Object in Your Food That Injures You In Oregon?

I read in the paper this morning that Tyson Foods has recalled thousands of pounds of chicken nuggets because they have hard pieces of plastic intermixed with the nuggets.  These pieces of plastic are considered "foreign objects."  Foreign objects can pose a danger to people that bite into the nuggets (broken or fractured teeth) or health complications if the plastic is swallowed (choking, tears in the esophagus, damaged tissue in the gastrointestinal track).  Some of these injuries can result in serious health complications.  When those complications occur medical bills can pile up to the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.   So who is responsible for paying the medical bills if there is a foreign object in your food? Who is responsible for compensating the injured person for all their harms and losses that resulted from the foreign object in the food?  In Oregon both the manufacturer, distributor, and seller may be liable.   

Oregon, like other states, has laws that are "products liability" laws to protect consumers.  ORS 30.920 is the Oregon Law that basically states a seller of any product in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the consumer, is subject to liability for physical harm to the consumer if the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and the product is expected to and does reach the consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.  This also applies to manufacturers.  (See ORS 30.920 (3) and Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 402A Comments a to m (1965).  What this means is the company that made and/or sold the food may be liable for the harms and losses they caused.

Oregon also has a law that prevents companies from manufacturing, selling, or delivering any food that is adultrated. ORS 616.215(1).  Having something in your food that shouldn't be in your food can be food that is adulterated (i.e. altered).  As a result, manufacturers and sellers of food may be liable to the injured person for breaking this law. 

 Other theories that may allow the injured person to hold the wrongdoers accountable are typically: Negligence and Breach of Implied Warranties, and maybe some consumer protection statutes depending on the facts.  The bottom line is if you are injured by a foreign object in your food then the seller and manufacturer may be liable.   

If you, or someone you know, is injured by a foreign object in food, then please call me at 503.224.1658.  Ross Law LLC is always happy to provide free personal injury consultations.  I also typically work on a contingency fee in these cases, so I will only be paid if you receive compensation.  Please remember the laws are constantly changing and this web-site, blog, or post should not be considered legal advice and could be considered Attorney Advertising.   Please consult with a lawyer if you have any questions about an injury you suffered and who may be liable for your injures.   Do not simply rely on this post. 

Tesla's Dangerous Autopilot Feature-Crashes and Recalls

Earlier this week I had written about the dangers of TESLA'S Autopilot feature.  There are allegations that this feature is responsible for causing car crash injuries and deaths throughout the United States.  Yesterday, Consumer Reports made the bold announcement requesting TESLA to disable the autopilot feature until the glitches are worked out.  This would allow TESLA to make the vehicles safer for people on the road.  

As I had stated earlier this week, Consumer Reports agrees that marketing the feature as "autopilot" will lead to driver complacency.  This is due to the fact that the name implies that the driver is not required to do anything.   The sales and marketing of the autopilot feature directly contradicts any warning TESLA may provide consumers.TESLA is denying liability and claims the autopilot feature is safe.  Tesla claims the statistics support their assertion that the autopilot feature is safe. 

If you or someone you know has been injured by an autopilot feature in a TESLA or any other vehicle, please call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.   Portland Oregon based Ross Law LLC is happy to provide a free consultation to any personal injury or products liability client.  

Self Driving Cars-Who is Responsible when there is a Crash?

The recent tragic death of a driver of a self driving Tesla has created another area of uncertainty in the litigation realm.  These cases appear unique and there are a handful that are being litigated around the United States.  I am not aware of any Oregon Cases where a vehicle on "auto pilot" caused a serious injury or death.  

RAW video and interviews from media event: Chairman on 30 Mile Highway Trip in Driverless Car Chairman Bill Shuster Will Join PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch in Self-Driving Car from Cranberry to Pittsburgh International Airport Washington, DC - Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) will join Barry Schoch, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, as Carnegie Mellon University¹s driverless 2011 Cadillac SRX transports them from surburban Cranberry to Pittsburgh International Airport.

These cases are unique products liability cases, because the cause of car crashes have historically been a driver's negligence.   Some vehicles have significant mechanical or electrical failures that have caused crashes, but the overwhelming majority of car crashes are caused by negligent humans behind the wheel.  Now this has all changed with the advent of the driver-less car.

Car companies are aware of this and the company Tesla is failing to concede its auto-pilot was the cause of a crash in Pennsylvania.  Instead, they have the typical response of "deny and deflect."  Tesla of course is denying it was the Tesla that caused the crash and Tesla is attempting to deflect the blame on the driver.   Tesla noted that "drivers are instructed to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain responsibility of the vehicle."

Tesla's instruction is what makes these cases interesting to legal geeks like myself.  This is a unique product that is marketed as "autopilot."  In reality, these vehicles are only partially self driving. The marketing coupled with the driver's expectations can create a sense of complacency for drivers.   Tesla must be aware of the driver's complacency.  However, what purpose does auto pilot serve if a driver still has to pay attention and keep their hands on the wheel?

Eventually an Oregon court will have to determine what legal theories are viable against certain defendants in failed autopilot car crashes.  Vehicle Manufacturers, Dealers, and the various companies that designed and programmed the software might all be viable defendants.   Products Liability claims, Negligence claims, Contractual causes of action, and maybe even Fraud may be proper Claims for relief depending on the facts of a specific case.   These cases may also be suitable for a Class Actions where numerous consumers have a common issue.

In the mean time, consumers can only hope manufacturers and software engineers are able to fix the bugs and glitches.  These bugs and glitches can result serious injuries and death, so their is no excuse for them to take every effort to protect their consumers and other people driving on Oregon's roads and highways. 

If you or someone you know have been injured in a crash where a car with auto-pilot was involved, please call Portland, Oregon attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Ross Law LLC is always happy to provide free personal injury consultations.  Please remember that the law is constantly changing.  This blog article is intended to create awareness of the safety issues wit driver-less cars and is not intended to be legal advice.